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Category: Sports

Walking it home

Stupid baseball.

OK, so you have a man on third, two outs, it’s the top of the 11th inning. The score is tied. Your pitcher runs up three balls on the batter, no strikes. You have two choices; you can either pitch to the batter, who knows you’re in a hole, or you can shrug and walk him and go for the next batter.

I dunno, it’s not like I’ve run the numbers, but I can’t see how the second choice isn’t better. You run the risk of additional runs, sure. On the other hand, there is no possible scenario for the third out which does not stay the same or improve if you have the man on first, since you now have the force out at second, removing a possible throwing error from the outcome matrix.

Lots of people know baseball better than me. I’ve never seen a manager turn a three-ball zero-strike situation into an intentional walk. Do they ever? Should they? Is there a remote chance that Coco Crisp, Jason Varitek, and Alex Gonzalez will squeeze out a run and make us suffer through more of this?

Crisp hit a double. That’s something. Varitek flew out. That’s not something. Gonzales fouled out. That’s not something either. Eh, it’s the bottom of the order, we don’t expect miracles. Youkilis has an RBI! I’m still peeved at Francona for not walking Rollins; this coulda ended with that. Loretta walked. Go ahead, make Ortiz a hero again. Yep, Ortiz whacks a single, Youkilis wanders on home, game over.

Nonetheless, I wanna know why you don’t walk the batter with two outs, tie game, extra innings, one man on third.

Timing is everything

David Pinto comments on the Beckett trade here and here. Both times he notes that the Red Sox are going for “win now” rather than rebuilding — but it doesn’t seem to me like that’s a wildly goofy thing to do. The Red Sox are one year off from a World Series victory and they have three postseason appearances in a row; in theory, at least, it makes sense to try and keep the streak going rather than rebuild.

I personally like the trade. The Sox had an abundance of minor league pitching, some of which will contribute next year. Lowell and Youklis between them should solve first and third base. The rotation is something like Beckett, Clement, Schilling, Wakefield, Papelbon, and Arroyo as the backup — shuffle that as you see fit, but it’s about right. The kids plus Timlin could be a good bullpen.

The big problems are in the outfield. Manny’s probably gone. Damon’s almost certainly gone. Trot Nixon will miss half the year again. I think you really need three outfielders who can start and play reliably and that’s a tough set of holes to fill.

Wait till

J. Papelbon: 4 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 2 Ks, 0.00 ERA. Nice little series for the kid.

The Red Sox were flawed, they made the playoffs anyway, and they didn’t do well. Next year ought to be pretty good. It is not necessary to bring back Damon; he’ll be 33 and may well have peaked over the last four years. Thanks for the title, Johnny!

The question for the off-season: who’s the ace? Schilling isn’t coming back as his old self, Clement isn’t an ace, and so on. Not a lot of great pitching on the free agent market. Burnett? I don’t think so. Morris or Mulder? Hm. Or maybe they’ll finally make the Manny trade.

But I like having a lot of strong pitching coming up from the minors, and I’m not too worried about the rest of the team. Next year ought to be good.

Olympus

There’s a pantheon in Boston sports, with a clearly defined roster: Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, Larry Bird, and Ted Williams are the definites. People argue for Carl Yastrzemski, and it’s hard to object to that one. It’s players who were the best of the best and who spent their careers with a Boston sports team. Championships matter, but Williams and Yaz are in the club, and they never won one — so maybe things like being the only player ever to win two Triple Crowns, or being part of the 1969 Impossible Dream season, maybe those matter too.

Tom Brady’s got a provisional invitation. He needs to spend a few more years with the Patriots, which he’ll do. He doesn’t really need to win any more titles, not that we’d mind. He needs to keep on being as good as he is. Those outside Boston might never see him as the best quarterback of the era. Us? We know what’s going on. If his skills hold up without Charlie Weis calling plays, it’s gonna be pretty clear.

So, though. What about the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox? Anyone there?

Schilling isn’t. He’s not going to pitch in Boston for more than four years, and I’d honestly be surprised if he gets more than three given his ankle woes. He ended his career prematurely for us, and he never is anything else in this town but a hero. There is no doubt of what he meant. Pantheon, though — that’s a different thing. Maybe if he retires here? Yeah, if he becomes part of the social fabric of the city, I could see it. Bill Russell goes to Celtics games still. I don’t think Schilling’s gonna do that, though.

Manny Ramirez qualifies on skill. Have you noticed how consistently good this guy is? He costs a fortune, but he’s worth a fair chunk of it. If he sticks with Boston for the rest of his career, and keeps being the friendly guy he became last year, he probably makes it in. Probably. Alas, Theo Epstein would love to get out from under his salary. And someone else will pay his demands when he hits free agency in, um, 2008? It’s a shame, though; he’s a stupendous player and it’s fun watching him hit. Frustrating, but fun.

Now. The fun one. I say Pedro’s in the pantheon.

Yeah, he’s an unpleasant asshole. So was Ted Williams. He was also arguably the best pitcher in the world for most of the time he was in Boston. His 2000 season was the kind of thing that is simply implausible — look at the difference between his stats and his competition. His SO/W ratio was literally half again that of the next best starting pitcher that year. Insane. What he did in 1999, against Cleveland, in the ALDS? That thing where he came into a tie game in the fourth inning, injured, and shut Cleveland down — the best bats in the AL — for six straight innings? It gets no more epic than that.

And sure, the 2004 season, he wasn’t the ace. Still. The Red Sox don’t win that World Series if Pedro didn’t pitch for them that season.

Probably I get no agreement on this from anyone. I don’t care. Pedro Martinez was one of the four or five best athletes to ply their trade in Boston; we should recognize him for precisely that thing.

Unparalleled

Paul Shirley graduated from Iowa State in 2001; now he plays basketball for the Phoenix Suns, a team which is arguably the best basketball team on the planet right now. He’s the 12th man on a 12 man team, so he doesn’t actually play very much. This means, apparently, that he has time to blog.

And man, someone needs to sign this guy to a book deal, unless he’s ghostwritten. I hope he isn’t. I’m surprised this stuff is getting onto NBA.com — he’s unrelentingly blunt about the opposition, life as a 12th man, all that fun stuff.

We started off like a ball of fire, making up for our errant shots in Atlanta several fold. The Bobcats, on the other hand, were flailing away at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. They looked like a CBA team —fitting, since their arena and fans fit that mold. In the early going, Charlotte was nearly as inept as the Hawks were the night before. Jason Kapono started off on about a 1 for 10 tear and it appeared that the rout was on. I began considering the possibility that there could very well be a bit of playing time in the offing and started paying at least cursory attention to what was going on in timeouts, in case Coach D’Antoni said something like, “From now on tonight, everyone will be shooting with his left hand. Deviation from this plan of attack will result in castration immediately following the game.” I would really hate to miss one of those instructions, come out firing, and because of my own mental lapse, ruin the rest of my life.

The style’s rough enough so that I kinda think it really is him writing it. Good for him.

Predictable luck

In SI today, Peter King asks “How lucky are the Patriots to have Troy Brown (third interception vs. Cincinnati) to ride to the rescue of their secondary?”

Not lucky at all. The Pats have Troy Brown in that position because Bill Belichick has a policy of taking advantage of his best athletes whenever possible; this is why Mike Vrabel caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and it’s why you see Richard Seymour lining up as fullback from time to time. Thus, Belichick asked Troy Brown to play a little defense during the pre-season this year, way before there was any hint of trouble or injury in the secondary. People thought it was a risky idea at the time. You’d think we’d have learned not to try and outthink Belichick by now.

Win

All in all I’d have to say that worked out pretty OK.

Yeah.

Dudes, I don’t know what to say. That was just… I watched the game in a bar on Mass. Ave, in the middle of Cambridge, near Davis Square. And that was good. And after the game, I walked down to Davis Square with friends and cheered. And that was good. And then I drove home, and now I’m home, and that’s good.

Um, here are some bad cameraphone pictures of Davis Square!

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There. Hey, did you hear that the Red Sox won?

Upward from here

Some things that are important about the just concluded Game One of the World Series:

That could well have been the worst starting pitching the Cardinals will have to face this series. Wakefield is pretty bad when he’s not on his game. Four out of the remaining six games will feature Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, and while Pedro has certainly declined, there’s no question but that he’s better than Wakefield was today. The other two games are Lowe and Wakefield, both of whom are capable of raising the bar somewhat higher.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen Woody Williams, who’s been stellar in the last few months. The rest of the Cardinals pitchers don’t suck, but there is no reason to think that they will pitch any better than Williams did. Also, Matt Morris will be pitching on three games rest on Sunday. Scary.

All this means nothing if Schilling’s ankle gives way. Urk.

The Red Sox will not have another four-error game this series. I feel pretty confident about that, actually.

Tony Womack may not be back after he got hit by Ortiz’ wicked single. He’s had collarbone problems in the past, it seems. This is bad for the Cardinals, since he’s a .307 hitter this year. (And he broke camp with Boston… although I’m not gonna complain about having Bellhorn at second, not tonight.)

All in all, I’m feeling pretty good about this one. It’s looking quite sunny for Boston.